Juan Cirerol - Ofrenda al Mictlan

Ofrenda a Mictlan, Juan Cirerol
Vale Vergas Discos, Mexico
Rating: 84
by Carlos Reyes
Think of Mexicali, then think of Nashville. Think of Michael Salgado, then think of The Tallest Man on Earth. You might feel like I’m adjusting your ink cartridges but I’m just setting the tone for this one (cheesy enough?). You could consider this as an exercise for the extension of the mind (and the music horizon), but that would be somewhat offensive, instead, think of it as a warm-up for one of the warmest, most heart-felt albums we’ve received in a while. But we can’t go on into a rave review without making a confession; it’s distressing to know just how much we like this, it’s quite disturbing actually. Mexicali’s Juan Cirerol could be classified as a Norteño folk troubadour, a storyteller, a romantic, a stylist of the popular song.

Ofrenda al Mictlan is an emotional album that reconciles Mexico’s popular music with country blues. The tactics are questionable, barely authentic, but show brilliance through every decision Cirerol and his spirited guitar take. He is not the first one to aspire to make a folk-norteño record (please don't think Nortec), but he might be the first one in our generation to triumph (at least on a personal level). Mexican icons Rockdrigo Gonzalez and Rigo Tovar did something similar at their prime, but this is much more substantial as the target audience is the young mp3 consumer, the indie kid who probably feels uncomfortable around his parents records. It might not be the mind-changing album that would make a kid say, “this is cool”, but it’s a progression towards that. Of course, this is just one of the many uses and readings of the album. As clearly expressed in "Como La Ves Carnal", clearly Juan Cirerol is less concerned with its intellectual use. Nice idea to release it on a label named Vale Verga Discos.

Club Fonograma’s staff is mainly of Mexican decent, so it’s easier to spot the qualities that make Ofrenda al Mictlan so transcendental. Since the first track (“La Banqueta”), the Mexican-nes is noticeable and quite generous. Quickly, you’ll recognize references (or at least remember) hardcore Mexican bands such as Los Alegres de la Sierra, Los Originales de San Juan, Los Inquietos del Norte, the humor of Piporro or El Tri, and from time to time, the subtleness of Joan Sebastian. “Crema Dulce” and “Hace Mucho Calor” have enough country in them to be featured on CMT and enough indie-flair for Pitchfork. But no matter how consciously pop this album might be, it’s hard not to classify it as a great rock record. Cirerol’s expressionist practices allow him to blur the lines of genres, and it’s almost intimidating how comfortable he seems to be in the middle of that entire idiosyncrasy.

There’s room for improvement on the aesthetics department, but that’s probably one of the factors that keep Juan Cirerol’s music from becoming too cartoonish. Some would argue he’s embracing stereotypes, but this is sincere folk music we’re dealing with. Among the most sympathetic pieces are two originals by Los Pikadientes de Caborca (remember “Cumbia Sobre El Rio”?). The album’s most friendly and charming song “Toque y Rol” is the heart of the album, it tells the story 'as it is', stripped down to a raspy profound voice and affectionate strings, towards the end of the song he starts to mumble, drugs do that. Is this the ultimate definition of rock&roll? Probably not, but in a contextual culture where thing are hard to hold on to, Cirerol’s bared talents translate as hugs, the emotional range and powerful songwriting are the backbone of a one-man’s poetry that’s in itself, a nation’s legacy.

♫♫♫ "La Chola"